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The Electronic Journal for Virtual Organizations and Networks
Volume 10, November 2008
COPING WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS ONLINE: THE CASE OF
PATIENTS’ INTERNET COMMUNITIES FOR DIABETES MELLITUS
AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
Sabine Bohnet-Joschko & Ulrich Bretschneider
Technische Universität München; at time of research Witten/Herdecke University
The article analyses whether participation in social networks of Internet Healthcare Communities
related to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Diabetes Mellitus (DM) affects patients’ perceived ability to cope
with their disease. Overall, data of 1,074 MS and 267 DM patients, collected in an online survey, were
analysed. A total of 73.7% of MS and 70.8% of DM patients rated participation as helpful. Moreover, the
study analyses patients’ online behaviour of those patients confirmed a positive effect: A total of 57.7%
of MS and 66.1% of DM patients actively interact with peers by e.g. posting forum entries or chatting.
The proportion of lurkers, patients who just search for information and do not interact with others, can
be considered remarkably low compared to online communities focussing on other topics.
Keywords: internet healthcare communities, social support, lurkers, health
information, information technology use
Coping with Cronic Illness Online
eJOV – The Electronic Journal for Virtual Organizations and Networks, Volume10, November 2008.2
According to recent estimations, 120,000 people are suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
and almost 4m people are affected by Diabetes Mellitus (DM) in Germany alone. Since the